LITURGY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE
Good Evening Friends and welcome again to the IONA Spirituality Institute Mass for our Earth, our Mother and Sister, our Living Common Home. We gather this night to celebrate the SOLEMNITY OF JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE - a marvelous invitation into the sacred myth and mystery of our faith that is the climax of our liturgical year, and the coda to the feast of the Ascension.
This feast was inaugurated by Pope Pius XI in 1926 after the calamity of the First World War – a war among monarchies and empires that turned our planet into blood-soaked killing fields. It was to be a war to end all wars, but it tragically brought us to another great war, and though empires fell in both conflagrations, empires still remain, likewise built on the power of the few and violence for the many. These empires are still structured on injustice and racism, aggression, deception, and of course, money. For Christians in the Catholic tradition, this feast is intended to be an act of ritual resistance – in imitation of Jesus - to all and any empire that would unleash such suffering on innocent, disenfranchised creatures. This feast is, therefore, a religious act of resistance to all such regimes of illegitimate power.
Likewise, it is also a political rite of resistance, begun by our Exodus ancestors, and resurrected by Jesus, who was executed for awakening its vision in the oppressed of his imperial moment, and throughout history, even to all of us…. In this solemnity, Christians are invited to radically shift allegiance from worldly empires to the great work of building another kind of realm: a reign of justice and compassion, of healing and joy.
To express the deeper dimensions of Jesus’ messianic “kingship,” this solemnity was amended by Pope Paul VI to stretch our imaginations to a wider horizon – the horizon of the universe itself, where the image of the historical Jesus dissolves into its deeper mystery, the unfolding dynamism of the Cosmic Christ, Alpha and Omega, mystery unnamable but palpable. And so our liturgy tonight is also an act of cosmic celebration.
Let us bring into this Eucharist all who cry out forKing Jesus, the non-violent revolutionary, the ever-creative evolutionary pioneer of a new world and a new Creation. Let us bear up especially the people, the animals, the lands, the rescue workers and medics of California, a region incinerated in the great transition our Earth now suffers as one civilizational enterprise necessarily yields to another.
“Ride on King Jesus” is the theme of our worship tonight, as we imagine King Jesus at the head of all caravans of migrants and dispossessed moving around this globe, searching for the safety and welcome he promises. Let us ride on with all people and creatures around the planet who share the hope of this solemnity.
Kathleen Deignan, CND.
REFLECTION ON THE TEXTS FOR THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
What a marvelous solemnity we are summoned to this night: Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It at once awakens many levels of our living in this historical and cosmic realm. It is, as we have heard, a ritual act of resistance to all and any powers or empires that would build a world on the sacrifice of the innocent, the powerless. It is also a ritual act intended to stir our cosmic consciousness, and encounter in one and the same icon of “King Jesus,”an historical messiah and the Cosmic Christ.
For me, no one quite gets the edge of the political dimensions of a feast like this so well as the Irish Jesus scholar, John Dominic Crossan (Google for a list of his publications and study resources). Please let me capture for us some of his insights that will let this celebration of Christ the King nourish our spiritual imaginations so we may be empowered for the work of resistance and mystical development to which this liturgy summons us.
First, it is important to understand that, like so much of what the Gospel writers have Jesus say and do – his proclamation of the “Empire of God is simultaneously utterly real and utterly ironic. Remember he is preaching, at great risk, in and to the Roman Empire where Caesar is the divine ruler and Pax Romana reigns. So to proclaim an alternate empire is pure sedition for which Jesus will pay dearly. But this does not stop him from dramatizing in his every word and deed, that God’s Realm as a rule of reversals.
Unlike what pertains in the Kingdom of Caesar, in God’s Kingdom, power is service; wealth is dispossession; force is the magnetism of truth; formation is persuasion; hierarchy dissolves into circularity; dominance is the sounding in perfect pitch, a polyphony of praise. In God’s Rule, the leader does not make martyrs, she herself/himself is martyred, raised up in perpetual subversive memory, and therefore is undying. In God’s kingdom, leaders don’t enslave, they ransom.
Those who choose Christ as the model king, the regent of the Realm of God, fall in love with him and stake their lives on the freedom he offers, willing to forsake everything else for living within it.
The people who choose to belong to the realm of Christ the King know their primary identity comes from their divine source, and no other source or force. We know our citizenship commits us to a virtual though real realm, actual and unfolding in our midst. We know that such a realm is a common home of care and compassion: a “kin-dom,” as we lately say, a familial web of safety and grace.
The civic duty of such a citizen of Christ’s Realm is to be a public / global servant who will actualize the vision, values, and virtues of our kin/dom. This is our vocation. It is at once a revolutionary vocation in the political domain, and it is an evolutionary vocation in the cosmic domain. It is above all, a mystical vocation in the heart’s domain.